When the Pro Football Writers Association announces its NFL Executive of the Year soon, there will be several worthy candidates.
Jerry Reese of the Giants, Bob Quinn of the Lions and Rick Spielman of the Vikings all did outstanding work over the past year to improve their teams. But has anyone done a better job than Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie?
McKenzie has worked a miracle in Oakland, where the franchise was in constant turmoil, had severe salary-cap issues and was caught in a losing spiral until he arrived in 2012.
The first three seasons were rough – and there were calls for his firing – as he stripped the roster of higher-priced veterans and began rebuilding through the draft and free agency. From 2012 through 2014, the team went 4-12, 4-12 and 3-13. But then came the resurgence. Under new head coach Jack Del Rio, the Raiders went 7-9. This year, they went 12-4, made the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and were denied an AFC West championship only on the last day of the regular season.
McKenzie’s drafts of 2014, 2015 and 2016 have been exceedingly productive, bringing in a franchise quarterback (Derek Carr), dominating defensive end/linebacker (Khalil Mack) and standout wide receiver (Amari Cooper), along with high-end starters such as Gabe Jackson, Karl Joseph, Clive Walford, Latavius Murray and Mario Edwards Jr.
In free agency, he’s hit the jackpot with tackle Donald Penn, center Rodney Hudson, guard Kelechi Osemele, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, safety Reggie Nelson, cornerback Sean Smith and linebackers Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith.
The result is a roster built for the long run and with room under the salary-cap for continued moves and flexibility. The 2016 breakthrough season should be – barring injuries – just the start of a long run of success.
Before this past season, Raiders owner Mark Davis gave McKenzie a four-year extension on his contract.
Said Davis: “We felt it was time to reward him for the job that he has done.”
The Executive of the Year award could very well follow.